02/29/2012

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Teachers still want “apples” An apple for a teacher is the education cliché, but do you know why? As far back as the 16th century, parents of students in Scandinavia, and eventually in the United States, gave fruit to their child’s teacher to show their appreciation. But it was also, in part, a form of payment to help low-salaried teachers feed their families. Today, the salary scale remains, but the appreciation seems lost, resulting in U.S. schools having a harder time than ever keeping good teachers. In fact, according to a McKinsey & Company study, 14 percent leave teaching after only one year, and 46 percent leave before their fifth. Why teachers leave When teachers enter the field, they have high expectations of making a difference. Too often, however, they quickly realize that they don’t have the professional support, feedback, resources, or modeling of what it takes to help their students succeed. Instead, teachers must teach to the tests, fight bureaucracies, and monitor cafeterias and hallways in addition to their daily lesson planning, classroom management, and administrative tasks. But it’s not just the heavy workload. In a July 2011 speech, as reported in The Huffington Post, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that teachers should earn between $60,000 and $150,000 a year. In reality, however, teachers earn an average $39,000 a year. But because salary is often indicative of the value society places on the profession, the emphasis on compensation may point to another issue. According to the McKinsey & Company study, the...
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Learning Uninterrupted A growing trend in education over the last two decades has been exploring ways to use educational technology to maximize classroom time and extend learning opportunities beyond the classroom. The idea of a “ubiquitous learning environment,” where students can learn at any time and in any place, has long been a dream of many educators and goes back over one hundred years—correspondence courses, phonographs, radio, filmstrips, and television have all been re-purposed for learning. Today, with high-speed Internet and devices like smart phones and tablet computers more commonly in the hands of students, educators are closer than ever to realizing the dream of the anytime/anyplace classroom. Despite the (very real) digital divide, schools increasingly are providing students with mobile computing devices to take learning from the school into the home. Many teachers already take advantage of free online services that provide rich and engaging educational opportunities. For example, the Khan Academy provides video vignettes on a plethora of educational topics, and MIT hosts a wide selection of online courses. But today’s educators are not just looking to capitalize on these types of resources, but also to transform homework time into an extended classroom experience. McREL’s own research in the areas of Homework and Practice supports the idea that learning outside of the classroom has a high (and measurable) impact on student learning and achievement. Most recently, the ubiquitous classroom has been getting attention due to the “flipped classroom” movement started by two Colorado teachers, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, from...

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